In the snow of far-off Northern lands…
In November 2004, 3rd Battalion conducted its first combat deployment in the Global War on Terror as part of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and became the sole Marine ground presence in eastern Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, 3rd Battalion would operate as Combined Task Force (CTF) Trinity — a part of Combined/Joint Task Force (CJTF) 76 — made up of the Army’s fellow Hawaii unit, the 25th Infantry Division. The battalion was broken down into four maneuver companies and one provisional rifle company (H&S). They were responsible for the security and governance of six provinces — Khowst, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangahar, and Paktia — which covered an area roughly the size of West Virginia. The battalion initially set up its headquarters at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno in Khowst Province. It transferred to FOB Jalal Abad in May after the southern half of its battlespace was turned over to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. During this time, 3rd Battalion conducted multiple mounted and dismounted actions, as well as an average of one large clearing operation a month. Contact with the enemy was mostly light and sporadic, with the notable exceptions of the Korengal Valley and the 8 May Ambush. Two Marines were killed and nine wounded before the battalion returned to Hawaii in June 2005.
“I think if you’re asking me (about 3rd Marines) going to the Middle East or another theater that’s active in the global war on terror — very, very real.” – Lieutenant Colonel Norm Cooling, 21 July 2004 (Honolulu Advertiser)
In mid-July 2004, 3rd Battalion was in the final stages of Exercise Rim of the Pacific when Lieutenant Colonel Norm Cooling received word that the battalion’s planned deployment as the ground element for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit had been cancelled. Instead the battalion would be deploying to OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan, where it would replace 3rd Battalion 6th Marines in Regional Command (RC) East. With just three months to prepare, and no standard training program for Afghanistan deployments, the battalion staff hastily drew up a new pre-deployment training program (PTP) with higher headquarters. A group led by Major Patrick Beckett left for Afghanistan on 12 August to conduct a Pre-Deployment Site Survey, and brought back valuable information to augment the battalion’s training program. The month of August saw the battalion rapidly adding new gear and training requirements. M-16A2’s were upgrade to M-16A4’s and M4 Carbines. Marines were given a crash-course in Dari, the official language of Afghanistan, although it would later turn out that most Afghans in the area spoke Pashto. Most importantly 80 new Marines joined the battalion, which had started the month at only 65 percent deployable strength. Some of them them arrived in the middle of the Combined Arms Exercise at Twentynine Palms, fresh out of infantry school.
Between August 20 and August 27, the battalion made their way to Twentynine Palms, California for the pre-deployment Revised Combined Arms Exercise (RCAX). There they joined the final supporting attachment sections they would take to Afghanistan as Task Force Trinity. At Twentynine Palms, the battalion broke down into companies, platoons, and even squads for a combination of live-fire training, as well as specialized counterinsurgency training in San Diego. On September 20, the battalion traded the hot Mojave desert for the cool mountains of the Sierra Nevada at the Bridgeport Mountain Warfare Training Center. Compressing a normal 2-3 week schedule into just ten days, the Marines conducted multiple long-range patrols, which culminated in a 14 kilometer battalion hike through the mountains. At the beginning of October, 3/3 returned to Hawaii for two weeks of final deployment preparations, followed by a well-deserved two weeks of leave for the Marines and sailors. They were now ready for Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Colonel Norm Cooling
Sergeant Major William Stables
First Sergeant Vincent Santiago
Staff Sergeant Jason Ramseyer
Lance Corporals Andres Aguilar, Jr. | Brock Brothers | Jose Marin Dominguez | Michael Estrella | Eric German | Nicholas Kirven* | Ryan Lane | Eric Lueken | William Leusink | Yull Estrada Rodriguez | Gary Soupir | Paul Szoldra
Italics indicates Marine is no longer alive. *Marine was killed in action or died on deployment.
- Predeployment Site Survey After-Action Review
- 3-3 Command Chronology 01 July to 31 December 2004
- 3-3 Command Chronology 2005 01 January to 30 June 2005 (Part 1)
- 3-3 Command Chronology 2005 01 January to 30 June 2005 (Part 2)
- 3d Bn, 3d Mar OEF 90 Day After-Action Review
- 3d Bn 3d Mar OEF Final After-Action Review
- Meritorious Unit Commendation 3D BN 3D MAR, 2004-2005